Rose B. Simpson: Legacies opens at the ICA/Boston

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Rose B. Simpson: Legacies opens at the ICA/Boston
Installation view, Rose B. Simpson: Legacies, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2022-2023. Photo by Mel Taing.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston presents Rose B. Simpson: Legacies, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in Boston. The artistic practice of Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983 in Santa Clara Pueblo, NM) encompasses ceramic sculpture, metal work, performance, installation, writing, and automobile design, offering poignant reflections on the human condition. Legacies is a tightly conceived exhibition featuring 11 of the artist’s ceramic figurative sculptures, including new works on view for the first time. Her ceramic sculptures, which range from intimately scaled works to monumental standing figures, express complex emotional and psychological states, spirituality, women’s strength, and post-apocalyptic visions of the world. Part of a multigenerational, matrilineal lineage of artists working with clay, Simpson connects traditional processes of producing clay pottery with innovative techniques and knowledge of her own place in the world today. Organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Associate Curator and Publications Manager, the exhibition is on view August 11, 2022 through January 29, 2023.

“Simpson is one of the most compelling voices in contemporary sculpture who consistently asks urgent questions about where we find ourselves in the world today through inventive techniques and materials. We look forward to sharing her powerful work with Boston audiences,” said De Blois.

For Legacies, Simpson’s signature themes and approaches to working with clay are brought together in an open floor plan presentation of individual figures, pairs, and groupings. These ceramic sculptures often incorporate metal, wood, leather, fabric, jewelry, and reclaimed materials, and are frequently marked with a “+” or an “x,” symbols for direction and protection, respectively. While the works included date back to 2014, the focus is on more recent work, including three new ceramic sculptures created for the exhibition. Heights I (original) (2022) is a small, armless standing figure with a series of cup-like vessels growing upwards from its head, suggesting the impulse to reach for new levels of consciousness. Legacy (2022), the work which gives the exhibition its title, is a two-part mother-daughter sculpture made using a technique Simpson refers to as “slap-slab,” involving repeatedly throwing clay against the floor on a diagonal until it is very thin. Built up of overlapping layers of thin clay, these busts are imbued with a sense of watchful vulnerability conveying the shifting complexities of motherhood as your child grows older. In Brace (2022), two armless leaning figures are locked in an evocative embrace, mutually dependent and tenderly joined together with knotted twine adorned with clay beads.

Many of Simpson’s works, like Legacy, consider intergenerational inheritances, or stand as safeguards against legacies of violence. Genesis Squared (2019), located at the gravitational center of the exhibition, features a mother figure who stands holding her child close to her body with feet planted firmly atop an ornately cut metal pedestal. Another cut-metal plate, depicting an intimate scene of mother and child embracing, balances on top of her head like a crown, as an homage to missing and murdered Indigenous women and to address the impact of the ongoing human rights crisis on the children forced to grow up without their mothers. Root A (2019) is a sentinel-like standing figure with crossed arms poised to safeguard women, native lands, and other vulnerable groups against external threats. Made of red, buff, and white clay, Root A is armed with various tools of survival. The figure’s intricately carved face is fixed atop a menacing blade encircling the shoulders. Suggesting an indomitable figure in a post-apocalyptic landscape, Root A “stand(s) tall,” according to the artist, “for justice, healing, and rehabilitation.”

Through such evocative, tactile forms and materials, each with their own commanding presence, Simpson’s work is intended, as she has said, “to translate our humanity back to ourselves.”

Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983, Santa Clara Pueblo, NM) has a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Art, a MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and a MA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She has had recent solo exhibitions at the Wheelwright Museum (Santa Fe, NM), the Nevada Art Museum (Reno, NV), SCAD Museum of Art (Savannah, GA), and University of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque, NM). In the past year, her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA), The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH), the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley, CA), and The Bronx Museum of Arts (New York). Her work is in many museum collections, including the Denver Art Museum, ICA/Boston, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Portland Art Museum (OR), Princeton University Art Museum, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Simpson lives and works on the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. Counterculture, a new large-scale public artwork by Simpson will be on view at Field Farm in Williamstown from June 18 — November 30, 2022 as part of The Trustees’ Art & The Landscape public art series.

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